In 2016 Slow Food Hunter Valley became aware that a local famer was going to have to plough 20 tons of pumpkins into the ground because they had become muddy after the 2016 floods. In order to help the farmer and address food waste, SF Hunter Valley approached the Maitland City Council about setting up a pop-up stall at The Levee in Central Maitland to sell the pumpkins to the local community. Support was overwhelming: The entire crop of 20 tons was rescued and over 2,000 pumpkins were sold in a day.
Based on the success of this collaboration, SF Hunter Valley, with support from the City Council, decided to set up the Maitland Fresh Farmers Market (MFFM), which, over the next seven months, sold 20 tons of local produce. By the sixth month, eight local producers had joined the market. Opportunities for young people to work on farms have increased, and farmers have begun to grow many local varieties and to diversify their operations in response to consumers’ demands.
In 2017 MFFM became Australia’s first Slow Food Earth Market. The market involves 12 producers who live within 100 kilometers of Maitland. They sell fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, fresh and cured meats, eggs, olive oil, organic fertilizer, hay, jams, honey, flour, baked goods, and prepared foods. Most of the producers are young and have turned to farming out of their desire for an ethical food system.
In addition to the sale of food and produce, the market hosts various activities including concerts; film screenings; and seminars on gastronomy, food production and consumption, agroecology, permaculture, and social and environmental issues.